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Pregnant Women Need Stronger Bipolar Drugs, Study Reports

Update Date: Nov 02, 2013 10:07 AM EDT

Bipolar disorder is a mental condition in which people go through periods of varying moods, such as depression, extreme joy or irritation. When left untreated, the mood changes can be so dramatic, which can negatively disrupt a patient's everyday life. Roughly 4.4 million American women are afflicted with bipolar disorder with a lot of them at childbearing age. When women are pregnant, their bodies are changing and according to a new study, pregnant women with this condition might need a prescription that is stronger than usual. Their regular doses will most likely be ineffective.

"Now physicians change the dose of the drug in response to women's symptoms worsening," said lead investigator Crystal Clark, M.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a psychiatrist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "We need to optimize their medication dosing so they stay well."

Clark and her colleagues studied the blood concentration levels of pregnant women taking the drug, lamotrigine. They found that the levels were decreasing in the pregnant women. Around 50 percent of the women in the study had to drop out due to the worsening symptoms they were experiencing as a result of the reduction in blood concentration levels. The researchers explained that during pregnancy, the body's metabolism increases, which causes drug levels to fall.

"The safety of the fetus is at risk," Clark said according to Medical Xpress. "Pregnant women that are depressed are less likely to take care of themselves which often leads to poor nutrition, lack of compliance with prenatal care and isolation from family and friends. It has also been linked to premature births and babies with low birth weights among other poor birth outcomes."

The researchers hope that their study's findings will help physicians plan a good and effective treatment route for their pregnant patients with bipolar disorder. The study was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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